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The truth about training without employee buy-in

I'm not Neo, and neither are you. Knock Knock! Time to work more personally n how we approach the people end of our business changes!

It’s time to wake up to the fact that it is people who work in business, and people are not software.

You have sat in “downloads” – meetings where PowerPoints are read to you as though you were 3 years old, or trainings in which you sat before the computer screen pushing the “right” buttons.

You are expected to get something out of this, and that is ridiculous. Even if you know nothing about learning styles (different strokes for different folks, y’know), you have to know that this is not the best way to fly.

I once sat in a gathering of biopharmaceutical professionals to listen to a guest who flew in from China to give an important presentation. He turned off all of the lights in the room, turned on the PowerPoint, and read it out loud. Even if I had understood the scientific jargon presented there, I would still have been asleep. (There were in fact more than a few snores heard during the presentation. No, they weren’t actually mine.)

One common scenario in the training milieu is this:

Management identifies a flaw with a program or process, so with all good intentions management decides to create something new. A new process. A new or updated program.

Management sits down and talks about what this new process or program will look like. Satisfied with their efforts, they create the finished product. Yay hooray!

Time to test the new process or program. Satisfied with their efforts they then create a training program for those who will use it. When that training is completed, it is pushed out to the end users.

Now – goes the thinking process – NOW things will get better!

There is a lot riding on this. A lot of effort, money, time and good intentions.

But things don’t get better. Management is baffled, frustrated, and blaming the end users.

The end users are baffled, frustrated, and blaming the managers.

Upper level management is blaming the managers.

And no one is happy.

I get very “exercised” about the power to change how well businesses run, and how happy the people who work there can be. I get exercised about it because it is really so easy to do. It’s all about communication. Period.

Yes, you do have to be open to doing things differently, but if you were to get incredible benefits from doing so, you would at least give it a try!

If you used a training process where people were treated as people and not as pieces of updatable software, here’s how it would actually work:

  • A problem with a process or program comes to your attention as a Manager.
  • You pull a Focus Group of people into an in-person conversation in which even more problems are revealed.
  • In the Focus Group you set a communal expectation: everyone in this room, management or not, is a professional. And you all need each other’s expertise, input, and feedback. So you speak as equals.
  • Now…you actually speak as equals, and as human beings. You listen to the people in the room, you talk with them instead of at them. You hold the attitude that changes you haven’t even imagined are possible, and you work together as one group, rather than as two groups coming together to use one another.
  • You ask the Focus Group for suggestions in the change that needs to happen. You do somehing completely revolutionary: you give them insight into the world they never get to see: Management’s. Share the intentions and the roadblocks the processes and the timing. You are educating them about the hitherto unseen corporate world that effects them every single day. You are treating them like colleagues and you are preparing them for a potential time of promotion. It’s A Good Thing.
  • When the Focus Group is over, Management talks about the implementation of the changes discussed.
  • Management transparently keeps the Focus Group updated with what is happening, and continues an in-person or online pipeline of open communication about the process that has now been started. Invited to comment or contribute, Focus Group people provide thoughts, insights, suggestions and let management know when they’re going off track.
  • Because the people designing the trainings know from the ongoing connection with the Focus Group that (1) people learn better in interactive groups, whether or not they speak up, and (2) this group prefers a drip campaign-style training rather than an all-at-once training, they begin designing the training with these requirements in mind.
  • The training is completed with ongoing input from the end user group.
  • The training is begun with the end users, and because it has been discussed already for some time among all of the end users as a result of the Focus Group not being sworn to secrecy, the training goes far better than any other training has gone before.
  • The results:
  1. The Focus Group part of your end users is very well educated on this new training already and can help other end users with questions and problem solving.
  2. The Focus Group collects information and input from the other end users so that future training updates can be on-point and proactively applied.
  3. Your Focus Group and end user personnel feel respected as fellow professionals and human beings. Attrition drops, feelings of resentment drop in the light of understanding more about what delays are all about, and that it is not some kind of uncaring conspiracy. Remember: We fear what we don’t understand. When we understand, we fear far less or not at all.
  4. Management has better results with this training than it has ever had before.

Incredible benefits! And all of them out of a willingness to communicate.


Lori Kirstein is a Communications and Business Consultant. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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